Delaware is the second smallest state in the U.S. As such, it hosts just two public four-year institutions — University of Delaware and Delaware State University — and four branches of Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC) to go along with a smattering of private offerings. It’s also a relatively wealthy state, and its public college options reflect that, ranking ninth-highest in total tuition and fees in the country. Fortunately, through the SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree) Scholarship, state residents who can keep a 2.5 GPA are guaranteed to pay $0 in tuition at DTCC. And those with a 2.75 GPA who get into Delaware State University can earn the Inspire Scholarship. If you have your heart set on University of Delaware, the school hands out 200+ grants and scholarships each year, including the B. Bradford Barnes Memorial Scholarship, a full scholarship that includes room and board, though you’ll have to compete with the thousands of other incoming freshmen. Yet there are other options. A lot of state financial aid can be used toward private college enrollment or even out of state, so tuition in Delaware can be cheap if you apply for state and school aid. Your cost of living can be affordable, too, even though Delaware is an expensive place to live. Read on to learn more about financial aid and social services for college students in the First State.
College students in Delaware can choose from two main options for credit transfer between colleges: the state matrix of transfer course equivalencies and the Connected Degrees programs. The state matrix enables students to research transferability, while the Connected Degrees programs outline specific transferable degree pathways.
Delaware uses a credit matrix to detail the transfer of college credits and requirements. With this matrix, students can research individual course equivalency data. This allows students to determine transfer course equivalencies. However, transferability does not guarantee a course will apply to graduation requirements for any particular major, and age limits may apply.
Through Connected Degrees, community college students in Delaware can choose from program-to-program transfer agreements in more than 100 different areas of study. These smooth transfer opportunities connect associate degree programs to bachelor’s degree programs. Students who have enrolled in a Connected Degrees program will enter the bachelor’s degree program as a junior with an appropriate cumulative GPA.
The Delaware Higher Education Office (DHEO) is in charge of keeping college in the First State as cheap as possible while maintaining high academic standards. It does this by dishing out state aid in the form of grants, scholarships and loan repayment programs. Visiting its website is a must because you’ll have to create an online account to apply for most state awards. One thing you’ll find on the site is a link to Delaware Goes to College, which guides students of all ages through the process of going to college, from researching the options to landing financial aid. It has college preparation checklists for 10th graders and above, so you can make sure you’re on track to get into school and make it affordable. For those not yet in high school, it links to the Delaware College Investment Plan, a 529 savings account. Perhaps most importantly, it publishes the highly usable Delaware Scholarship Compendium, which delves into just about every type of award a Delawarean can apply for. Elsewhere, the Delaware Community Foundation is another good source for private scholarships to supplement a financial aid package.
Summary: Workers looking to add skills to their resume can get up to $2,000 to take not-for-credit classes or enroll part time at a Delaware college or adult education center.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident employed in the state but earning less than three times the federal poverty level. You can’t work for the government or an educational institution. And if you’re a full-time employee, you must work for a small business.
How to Apply: Find an application here. Your school must submit a form prequalifying you for the grant.
Summary: Earn $700 to $2,200 (depending on GPA) to enroll full time at an undergraduate program within the state or an undergraduate or graduate program outside of it (if your degree isn’t offered at a Delaware public college).
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident who needs financial aid. You’ll also need to have a 2.5 GPA to earn the base amount of $700; you’ll earn a scalable merit supplement if it’s higher.
How to Apply: Submit the FAFSA by April 15th, which determines your financial need. Send the DHEO your transcripts by July 7th, and submit enrollment information by the same date through your DHEO student account. You can’t renew, so you’ll have to submit a new application each year.
Summary: Win a full ride, including room and board, to study humanities or social sciences at one of the state’s two four-year public universities.
Eligibility: You must be a high school senior in Delaware who finished in the top half of your graduating class and netted a 1350 on the SAT.
How to Apply: File the FAFSA by March 5th, and submit an online application by the same date. The application includes an essay and academic information. Don’t fret if you don’t get it — only one award is given per university each year.
Summary: This private scholarship administered by the DHEO is given to environmental engineering and environmental sciences majors.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident and high school senior or college underclassman to apply. Applicants are judged on financial need, scholastic achievement, extracurriculars and leadership skills.
How to Apply: Submit an online application via your DHEO student account and file the FAFSA by April 15th. The application includes a short essay.
Summary: High-performing Delaware high school students can get $1,250 toward college studies anywhere in the country.
Eligibility: First, you must be a Delaware resident in the 75th percentile of your class and the owner of an 1800 SAT score. Then, enroll full time at a nonprofit college.
How to Apply: Submit an online application via your DHEO student account by March 5th. The application includes an essay; take it seriously, as only about 50 scholarships are given each year. You can renew each year of undergrad if you maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Summary: Four scholarships of up to $1,000 each go to current or former inhabitants of manufactured homes.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident, though you may use the scholarship anywhere. Applicants are judged on high school record, financial need and the quality of their application.
How to Apply: File the FAFSA by April 15th. You’ll also need to submit an online application via your DHEO student account by that date. The application includes an essay and letters of reference.
Summary: Secure a college scholarship in eighth or 10th grade by acing the Delaware Compehensive Assessment System tests in math and reading.
Eligibility: Rank among the top 300 or so of your peers in either grade to win a scholarship.
How to Apply: Create a DHEO student account to request your award. It can be applied to colleges outside of Delaware.
Summary: High school seniors and college students whose parents or grandparents are members of the Port of Wilmington Maritime Society and work there can get $2,500 for their first year of college.
Eligibility: Your relative must have contributed $500 to a Maritime Society scholarship fund. Awards may be used within or outside of Delaware. They are given based on financial need (50 percent), GPA (25 percent), SAT scores (15 percent), essay (five percent) and community involvement (five percent).
How to Apply: File the FAFSA, and submit your application to the Port of Wilmington Maritime Society by April 1st.
Summary: Free tuition at a Delaware Technical Community College is at stake with this award.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware high school senior with a 2.5 GPA. To keep the award the following year, you must maintain that GPA in college. You have to have applied and been passed over for other federal, state and college assistance to get SEED money.
How to Apply: Submit a SEED Scholarship application to your college’s financial aid office by April 15th, and file the FAFSA by June 1st.
Summary: Librarians can receive a renewable loan to earn a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in the discipline. The loan is forgiven if you agree to work as a librarian within the state for a specified time period after graduation.
Eligibility: Delaware residents may apply. Bachelor’s and doctoral applicants must have two years’ work experience in the state at a local or state library. Master’s applicants must be in an ALA-accredited library and information science program. Financial need is a consideration, as is the strength of your resume.
How to Apply: Submit an online application via your DHEO student account by June 1st, and file the FAFSA by April 15th.
Summary: Get a loan to become a teacher in Delaware. Each year you teach wipes one year of the loan off your balance sheet.
Eligibility: You have to be a Delaware resident starting a full-time baccalaureate program at a Delaware college in an undergraduate program that leads to teacher certification. Additionally, you need to be in the 50th percentile of your class or above (with a 2.75 GPA at minimum) and net a 1570 on the SAT. If you’re going to be teaching in a critical need area, you’re more likely to receive a loan.
How to Apply: Apply online through your DHEO student account between April 1st and June 1st.
Summary: If you’re a full-time staff member at a Delaware public or charter school but are teaching in a critical need area on an emergency certificate, get three credits reimbursed each semester for coursework toward standard certification.
Eligibility: You do not have to be a Delaware resident, and you can be reimbursed at any regionally accredited college, even outside the state. To be reimbursed, you must earn at least a C.
How to Apply: Apply through your school district or charter school, which will file a Critical Need Reimbursement Request on your behalf. The application deadlines are January 15th for the fall semester and June 10th for the spring semester, so plan ahead.
Summary: Get a loan up to the cost of tuition, books and fees for four years to earn a nursing degree. Have it forgiven when you work at a state healthcare facility after graduation.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident enrolling full time in an RN or LPN program. You must be in the 50th percentile of your high school class or above (with a 2.5 GPA at minimum). If you’re employed by the state and/or have worked as an RN for the state for five years, the criteria are slightly different.
How to Apply: Apply online through your DHEO student account between April 1st and June 1st. To renew, you must maintain a 2.75 GPA.
Summary: If you are in a healthcare field that requires a graduate or doctoral degree to practice (whether in primary care, dentistry or mental health), Delaware will repay some of your loans provided you work in a health professional shortage area (HPSA) there for two years.
Eligibility: You must have federal loans and not be in default. You’ll need a Delaware license, even if you’re coming from college elsewhere.
How to Apply: Keep an eye on the application page for details, as the award is not available year-round.
Summary: Delaware is on the lookout for educators in critical need areas, especially math, science and special education, and it’s giving out loans to retain them. Each year taught equals one year of your loan that you don’t have to repay.
Eligibility: You have to be a Delaware resident in a Delaware college baccalaureate or graduate program that leads to teacher certification. Additionally, you need to be in the 50th percentile of your class or above (with a 2.75 GPA at minimum) and net a 1570 on the SAT.
How to Apply: Apply online through your DHEO student account between April 1st and June 1st.
Summary: Delaware would love to see you become an optometrist in the state. It gives out forgivable loans for optometry graduate students who agree to stay in the Diamond State after graduation.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident, but you can attend a master’s program anywhere.
How to Apply: Apply online through your DHEO student account between April 1st and June 1st.
Summary: Calling all speech-language pathologists: Delaware needs you. It will give you a forgivable loan for your graduate studies if you work in a Delaware public school or for a Birth to 3 Early Intervention System program provider after graduation.
Eligibility: You must be a Delaware resident with financial need as determined by the FAFSA. You’ll also be judged on your resume.
How to Apply: Apply online through your DHEO student account between April 1st and June 1st, and file the FAFSA by the latter date.
Summary: Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree (or master’s degree if funding permits) at a Delaware college for free if you’ve been a member of the Delaware National Guard for six years.
Eligibility: You can attend any nonprofit college in the state, but you can only get 100 percent of your tuition covered at a public college.
How to Apply: File the FAFSA, and submit DNG Form 600-1 signed by your unit commander to the address listed on the form. You’ll also need to file a DNG Form 600-4 for reimbursement after your college bills you.
Summary: Children of fallen or captured soldiers and state police officers or Department of Transportation workers who died on the job needn’t worry about paying tuition and fees at public colleges in Delaware. If their chosen field of study isn’t available, they may even receive money to attend a private school in Delaware or out-of-state institution.
Eligibility: You must have been a Delaware resident for three straight years, and the parent must also have been a Delaware resident. If you’re past the age of 24, you’re not eligible.
How to Apply: A form should be available at DHEO. If you don’t see it, call DHEO at (302) 735-4000.
Summary: Delaware is a small state with only two public universities. It’s entirely possible that neither of them will have the degree program you want. If that’s the case, you can pay the in-state tuition rate to attend a public school within a member state of the Southern Regional Education Board.
Eligibility: Delaware residents qualify once they gain acceptance to an eligible bachelor’s or master’s program.
How to Apply: Submit an application certifying your Delaware residency.
Covering the cost of higher education is only half the battle. Attending classes, even if only part time, cuts significantly into short-term earning potential. In other words, you’ll have to find a way to pay for your living expenses, from securing affordable housing to accessing cheap healthcare. Fortunately, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is loaded with programs for people in tough financial circumstances, covering residents from birth to death. For instance, it finances the cost of certain grocery items for nursing mothers on the WIC program, pays for child care if there’s no one to watch the kids while you attend class, and signs those same kids up for medical care through the Delaware Healthy Children Program. It also makes sure you have Medicaid if you can’t afford insurance, monthly food stamps (SNAP) if the cost of eggs is out of reach, or an electricity subsidy through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) if your bill spikes. Apply for these benefits through Delaware ASSIST. Food Bank of Delaware has outreach programs for SNAP, WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), among others, so it can sign you up as well. First State Community Action Agency can also help you figure out what you’re eligible for and walk you through the enrollment process.
If you’re looking for a program that doesn’t seem to be there, do a final check at Delaware 2-1-1. It’s a comprehensive directory of resources and services covering education, healthcare, transportation, housing and emergencies. By the way, if you’re still fighting that tuition battle, check out Delaware Community Foundation, which hands out tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money annually. Each award has specific criteria, so whether you’re from the east side of Wilmington or the southern tip of Sussex County, there’s something for you.
On-campus housing usually only comes free if you become a resident assistant, and you’ll need a year as a residence hall denizen before you can apply. But you may have opportunities to offset room and board costs through grants or loans. For instance, undergraduate state residents at the University of Delaware who choose to live in school housing can get an On Campus Need Based Grant just for room and board. Once you have an idea about your financial aid package, which you can estimate with your school’s net price calculator, use the CalcXML tool to see how your expenses might change depending on where you choose to live.
Delaware is a relatively expensive place to live, with a cost of living more than 10 percent higher than the rest of the country. Expect to pay at least $700 for an apartment, even a studio, and anything with more than one bedroom will likely be over $1,000. That said, you may still find living away from school to be cost-effective for you. Colleges provide varying degrees of help when it comes to getting their students settled off campus, and sometimes the best approach is speaking with a student life staff member directly. Some schools’ websites mention off-campus student services, which are important to consider if you’re not rolling all your food, utility, furnishing and transportation costs into one by living in a residence hall or student apartment. Wesley University, for instance, sells two meal plans designed specifically for commuters, which can work out to a sizable discount over the course of the semester. With regard to accommodation specifically, Wilmington University, which doesn’t have campus housing, navigates enrollees to Places4Students.com to connect with potential roommates and find housing. Delaware State University and University of Delaware use this service as well. If you’ve looked through Places4Students.com and aren’t sold on the offerings, you can check another free site, DelawareHousingSearch.org, or old standbys like CampusRent.com or MyApartmentMap.com. If you desperately need a place and don’t have deposit money together, explore transitional housing and emergency shelters at Delaware State Housing Authority.
When you move off campus, you’ll need to turn on water, electricity and/or gas, which often requires paying a deposit. And that’s just where payments start. Delaware is known to have high electricity costs. Municipal utility companies in the state aren’t subject to oversight by the Public Service Commission, allowing them to charge whatever rates they see fit, which then go toward unrelated city budget items. That’s why customers in Newark pay $330 more a year for electricity than those in New Castle, though the two cities aren’t even 15 miles from one another. You’ll need to check where your power comes from to properly budget. Get some background on the issue here. If you find yourself more than a few dollars short in the winter, you might qualify for fuel assistance or crisis assistance through the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Summer cooling assistance is also available. If you qualify based on financial need for LIHEAP, you should also check into getting your house functioning at peak condition throughout the year with the Weatherization Assistance Program; in this program, a technician will repair poorly insulated parts of your home for free.
Delaware has no medical schools or dental schools. And while University of Delaware and Delaware State University have student clinics, some of Delaware’s private schools don’t even have free counseling services, a staple of modern student services. Even without a clinic, your college probably has some initiative related to personal health. Wilmington University students, for instance, can grab a TrustScripts card to get deep discounts on prescription medications. Wesley College does have a clinic, and the cost is included in tuition, making it the #1 option for basic care for students there. If your campus doesn’t have a clinic and you need a cheap option, find a list of community health centers that don’t turn away people based on their insurance coverage or inability to pay at the DHSS Division of Public Health. You can also download the Healthcare Resource Guide, which has information about dental, mental health and primary care clinics. It also goes into detail by listing, for instance, which clinics have pharmacies or vaccination services. For serious behavioral and mental health issues, look into PROMISE Assessment Centers, which can be found at the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, though they do not explicitly cater to lower-income clients. If you’re after dental care in particular, navigate to the State of Delaware Dental Resource Guide to find a low-cost clinic in your town.
Three of Delaware Technical Community College’s campuses — Dover, Georgetown and Wilmington — run child development centers, where student parents can get cheaper rates than members of the general public. The University of Delaware, meanwhile operates the Early Learning Center at Wilmington and Newark, but neither facility is located on campus, meaning your best and cheapest option may be elsewhere. Find that place on the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families’ database of providers. You should also study up on the Delaware Purchase of Care (POC) program, which subsidizes child care for working and studying parents.
Many colleges in Delaware at least mention transportation options, but most don’t have arrangements with the state’s transit players, the DART bus system and SEPTA train network, for students to ride at a reduced costs. Three colleges do, however, have their own systems. University of Delaware operates Unicity buses in conjunction with the City of Newark, so students can get around town for free. Students not going off campus can still hop on a shuttle to get to class. The DSU Shuttle Bus also navigates Delaware State University’s grounds and makes forays to college student hotspots such as Walmart. Last, DTCC has a shuttle bus to transport students between its Stanton and Wilmington campuses. If you’re elsewhere and rely on DART to get around, there are no state student transit passes, but you can pay less by ordering tickets in advance online.
College cafeterias are priced to be student-friendly, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. Plenty of students each year find themselves pinching pennies during the academic year and going without food. Unfortunately, as of 2016, none of Delaware’s schools have taken the step of establishing a campus food pantry. So, if you’re in this situation, you’ll have to look off campus. The state Office of Management and Budget keeps a directory of soup kitchens and food pantries that participate in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and FoodPantries.org has a user-compiled list. There’s some overlap, but there are unique names on each list. New moms and mothers-to-be can get more discreet help in the form of free groceries; go to the Delaware Health and Social Services Department to learn more about the state WIC program.
SEE ALSO: Our Encyclopedic Guide to Saving Money as a College Student.
Wilmington, the state’s largest city, is actually considered part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. You can get between the two cities by train in around 20 minutes, and you might consider doing so because by nearly every metric, Wilmington is an expensive place to live — even more than Philadelphia. The only thing that evens out the cost of living is housing. With the city’s average house 70 years old, buying one is very cheap by national standards. But as a college student, you’ll likely be renting, and rents are high, at least 20 percent above the national average. Combine that with exorbitant utility fees, expensive groceries and costly healthcare, and you can expect to pay a lot for the privilege of calling Wilmington home, which you’ll likely be doing as a student at Delaware College of Art and Design, Goldey-Beacom College or Wilmington University (which is actually in New Castle, six miles away). One of Delaware Technical Community College’s campuses is also there.
Delaware is an exceptionally small state. You could drive from one end to the other in less time than it takes to play a baseball game. Thus, many of the nonprofit and government agencies have extended, or even statewide, service areas. If something operates out of Wilmington, it’s probably also available in Dover and Newark.
To find more programs like those above or in areas such as legal services and healthcare, enter your ZIP code into Delaware 2-1-1.
Delaware State University and Wesley College are both based in the capital, Dover, as is one of the DTCC campuses. Though just an hour from Wilmington, Dover is quite a bit cheaper. Utilities and groceries are still above the national average, but you can save on renting an apartment, with a decent studio going for under $600.
The capital serves as the headquarters for government agencies and many nonprofits. Here are two good starting points if you need assistance with all the parts of life not covered by tuition:
Both of the resources above offer diverse programs and referrals to social services in Kent County, but if you want to do a quick internet search first, try Delaware 2-1-1.
In all major areas, save one, Newark’s cost of living matches Wilmington’s. That makes sense — they’re within spitting distance, just 20 minutes apart. But housing is much more expensive. Newark’s homes are relatively newer — the median average is 40 years old — so they’re more costly to buy. Rents, though, are roughly the same. So, if you’re attending the University of Delaware, you can do a house search there without feeling like you need to commute from Wilmington.
Just down the road from the state’s largest city, Newark is within the service area for many of the bigger Wilmington nonprofits. And since both cities are in New Castle County, don’t feel constrained by your search for assistance. There is an ideal place to start, however:
The service center can likely refer you to any nearby agency or program provider, but for a more detailed peak at what’s available in Newark, consult Delaware 2-1-1.